Secret Shores Storybook Series: Crickets.
[Continued from Chapter One]
The walk had been long and exhausting. The sparkling light Aerya had seen over the valley continued to loom dimly in the distant horizon, seemingly no closer than before. Maybe it wasn’t there at all; she couldn’t quite seem to tell what was real anymore.
It was getting dark – the sun had just set, momentarily painting the sky a crimson shade of violet that had now all but faded. Parched, Aerya knelt down by the stream along which she had walked from the village, cupping her hands and gulping down the cold, sweet water. The now-emerging moonlight twinkled in the water, which, up here in the hills, remained an untainted shade of sapphire blue – a sight she hadn’t seen in a while.
She laid her sack down as a pillow and began to gaze into the stars. There was a serene silence in the air, with the exception of a few crickets singing their songs proudly, in fierce defiance of the uninhabited, lifeless landscape that surrounded them.
She thought of how much she missed her family. Jed, Mayr, Fynn – she wondered if she would ever see them again. She remembered playing with Jed when she was younger: going fishing, chasing each other around in the meadows, one day blending into the next, life drifting by like a sweet lullaby. She’d heard whisperings from her parents about the chaos that had broken out in neighbouring sectors, but she had never understood what they were talking about. She understood now.
She remembered her frantic escape from the sudden barrage of mortar shells, sprinting to hide deeper in the forest where she had been exploring. And she remembered her return to the village – no, the hellish landscape – days later, where a trail of destruction had been left, and not a soul remained. She remembered weeping softly as all that she had once loved was taken from her. It had been a few weeks now since the attack, but with the searing, painful memories fresh in her mind, it felt more like a few minutes.
Aerya had more questions than answers, but she knew that there was a reason she was still alive, why she of all people had been spared, and she was determined to find out what that was. Her joints were sore and her feet were covered in dirt, but somehow she now felt a strange sense of calmness for the first time in a long time.
She began to doze off as the warm night’s air enveloped her like a blanket. She heard rustling in the bushes ahead, but she dismissed it as her own imagination. After all, she hadn’t seen anything alive that was larger than a bug in a while, all the animals having scattered the area in fear.
Suddenly, a voice cut through the silence: “Aerya, is that you?” she heard in a whispered tone. She shot up, jolting to see if she had indeed heard what she thought she had. A small boy emerged from the shadows – it was Jed.
. . .
Continue on to Chapter Three here.